Taiwan bans imports potentially harmful to economy

2,200 Chinese products are forbidden to be imported into Taiwan, including from some from Ikea, H&M

Taiwan takes precautionary economic measures with selective import bans. (Image from Unsplash)

Taiwan takes precautionary economic measures with selective import bans. (Image from Unsplash)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In an effort to protect the economy from further product saturation, Taiwan currently bans the importation of 2,206 products from China, including some from name brand European manufacturers like IKEA and H&M.

A company may apply for special permissions from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to override the ban and import a certain product.

Products barred from entering Taiwan via China can however be imported from other countries, and typically find their way in via South Korea, Vietnam, and New Zealand, according to UDN.

Price competition

In April 2017 for instance, IKEA applied to import two kinds of mirrors, cups under 500ml (17oz), and remote-controlled lights from China, but only the remote-controlled lights were approved.

The Bureau of Foreign Trade said that if those particular IKEA products were sold in Taiwan, the mirrors and the cups, domestic production of similar products would be greatly impacted. For instance, in 2016 cups under 250 ml were cleared for import from China and as a result the Taiwan Glass Industry Association reported that sales fell by 45%, according to UDN

As for the mirrors, the Bureau responded that they feared Taiwan competitors could not offer prices as competitive as China’s.

Bedroom Cotton

In June 2017 IKEA applied for special permission to import cotton bedding products. Even though the company was initially granted permission, after complaints from local businesses selling similar products were made, permission was retracted by Sept. 2017.

Similarly, cotton guilds and associations said that supply already exceeded demand of cotton bedding and officials feared that allowing even more competitors onto the scene would harm the 7,000 domestic vendors.

IKEA responded to the decision to block their products stating, “We respect the decisions of Taiwan’s higher authorities.”

H&M has received similar treatment. Authorities have blocked clothes, socks, and women’s undergarments made in China from entering Taiwan.

No threats, no problem

Sometimes however special import requests are seamlessly approved, the decision is simply made according to the demand of the product versus the ability of domestic producers to supply it.

Following a Bureau of Foreign Trade meeting Feb. 27, 2018 to discuss importing more products from China, a request from HTC to import the VIVE Virtual Reality Remote System into Taiwan was swiftly approved by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Industry officials said the VR remote product was approved because there was no similar existing product already on the market in Taiwan, the remote was not a threat to national security, and received no opposition from members of the Taiwan Electrical and Electric Manufacturer’s Association.

An official at the Industrial Development Bureau said that if the product would have encroached on areas of domestic development focus like image recognition, phone identification, or related algorithms, it would not have been approved.